When Is Believing “Seeing”? Hostile Attribution Bias as a Function of Self-Reported Aggression1


  • 1

    This research was partially supported by Grant #2 ROI MH45069 from the Violence and Traumatic Stress Research Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health. The authors would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Alex Matthews, who is now at The Behavioral Research Center, American Cancer Society, 1599 Clifton Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30329-4251. E-mail: amatthew@cancer.or.


Repeated exposure to adverse advents (e.g., risky driving) was thought to increase expectations for the recurrence of the event. Community-based drivers (130 men, 133 women) were given scenarios depicting everyday road events that could be construed as benign, ambiguous, or malign by the degree of perceived provocation. Differences between levels of gender, ethnicity, age, aggressiveness, and provocation were measured by attributions of intent, hostility, and anger. Results showed that, overall, drivers accurately perceived provocation conditions. Hostile attributional biases were not evident among the sample as a whole, but were dependent on level of aggressiveness and provocation. Analysis of self-reported driving behavior showed that young, aggressive majority group drivers who experience greater aggression on the road also were more likely to take more risks while driving. Controlling for miles driven, gender differences were not found.